Food

My Wonderful Steam Juicer!

I love my steam juicer. It is one of the “coolest” kitchen toys I use — hands down.

I inherited my steamer. For some strange reason, in the early sixties, my mother and a neighbor decided to share the cost and ownership of the steam juicer and ordered one from Finland. It came via New York.  Now, my mom just did not do things like this normally and when I asked her about it, she said she and the neighbor saw it and got a “wild hair” and just bought it! And for that I am thankful because I would not want to be without it today!

I have tried to be creative and have juiced and steamed different things in it over the years, but now really just settle on a couple staples that I refuse to be without each year; tomato juice, tomato paste and Concord grape juice. Apple juice seems logical, but I prefer to freeze fresh-pressed cider. It tastes better than steamed apple juice!

The steamer/juicer is really simple to use. Fill the water pan, put the fruit in the steamer basket and steam until all the juice is in the juice kettle, then siphon it into sterilized jars and seal.

Making grape juice always turns into a two- to three-day event. I usually try to pick the grapes the same day I start juicing and then just go for it to get it done, but grapes take the longest to steam, so I always end up doing it over a few days. The fruit flies can be a menace, but that’s another story!

I pick my grapes at an organic farm just west of Woodburn, Daum’s Farm. This year, the grapes came on and we raced down to get them on a Thursday afternoon, during rush hour (that was a crazy adventure!) and I only ended up with a hundred pounds of grapes — we just ran out of daylight and the owners wanted to close up the farm stand and go home!

We got back to Vancouver very late and the next day I had to work, so I put my grapes on the patio (thank goodness it was very cool the next day) and started my juice production late Friday afternoon. I finally finished juicing Sunday morning and I got just about 40 quarts for the 100 pounds of grapes. That ratio of grapes to juice is about right, around 2 pounds per quart. We might make it through to next year, if we’re stingy, with our 40 quarts.  But, sorry friends and family — no juice for Christmas this year. Don’t even ask!!!

GRAPES

Rinse the grapes. Leave the stems on! Daum’s is an organic farm: no pesticides or sprays of any kind, so really, all I do is rinse!

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Fill the basket and steam for 2 hours (don’t let the water pan run dry!)

(And sorry about my messy stove top; canning season is tough on my kitchen!)

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Siphon the juice into hot, sterile jars (I rinse already clean jars and put them in the oven at 170 degrees.) Wipe the rim with a damp cloth and seal with a sterile lid.  Be very careful filling the jars; it’s REALLY hot! I am good at it now, but I have missed the jar, panicked and dropped everything. And that is a huge mess!

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Let the jars “rest” for 24 hours before putting away.

I forgot to mention that I do not add anything to my juice. The grapes are sweet enough without added sugar! It really is amazing!

Typically we drink the juice over ice, but a splash of soda water with a sprig of fresh mint makes a really nice drink. Making grape jelly is also really easy with the juice.

Janine Blackwell

Janine Blackwell

Food has always been a main focus of my family life! At 12 years old I picked berries during the summer and at 15 I started work in the local cannery. This was my summer job all through college (my father was the production manager for Norpac Foods for 30 years, so I had an in!) Each summer my mom would can and preserve fruit and vegetables so we could have "good stuff" all year long. I attended a cooking school while I lived in England for about a year, but my life took a different turn and I did not go into food professionally. My sister owns a restaurant in Colorado and my brother works for a blueberry processing plant in Silverton, OR. Like I said- a family affair! I teach video and film at Columbia River HS (love it) but I also love to cook, can and preserve. I work to use as much home grown, locally produced and organic product as I possibly can.